Rep. Patrick Murphy hits Sen. Marco Rubio for playing politics with Orlando shooting

Posted at 8:35 AM, Jun 20, 2016

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy on Saturday slammed Sen. Marco Rubio for using the mass shooting in Orlando to reconsider a re-election run instead of backing stricter gun control of suspected terrorists.

Murphy is the leading Senate Democrat in Florida and is in crowded race to take Rubio's seat.

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Rubio originally said he wouldn't seek a second term after entering the GOP presidential race, but party leaders have urged him to change his mind. In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, Rubio said he was going to talk with his family over the weekend about entering the race. The deadline to qualify for the ballot is next Friday.

Speaking Saturday at a news conference before a Florida Democratic party fundraiser in South Florida, Murphy said he's received calls from Republicans and Democrats who are "appalled" at Rubio for using the tragedy in Orlando that left 49 dead as an "excuse" for getting into the Senate race.

He said the first-term senator is "one of the most homophobic" lawmakers in Washington and should vote next week in support of a bill to prevent anyone on the terror watch list and no-fly list from buying a firearm. Similar bills have gone nowhere in the past because of resistance among Republicans in Congress, including Rubio.

Said Murphy: "Rubio should say, 'you know what, I made a mistake on the terrorist gun loophole. I'm going to vote on Monday to change that.'"

Murphy is among several major Democratic leaders in attendance at the Leadership Blue Gala, formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, an event held each year by the state party to raise money. Saturday night's keynote speaker is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

In his remarks, Booker told his fellow Democrats that the country is at a critical point in deciding whether to become more than just a tolerant nation but a loving nation. He added "this election is not about party politics" but a "choice between demagoguery and courage."

"How you see a gay American says more about you than it does about them," he said. "How you see an immigrant says more about you than it does about them."

"I'm tired of people saying 'let's tolerate each other,'" he said. "We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love."

Florida Democrats greeted Booker's remarks with loud applause.